If you’re the son of Country legend Waylon Jennings, it’s probably expected that you are “Bound ta Git Down” - and so Shooter Jennings did, opening his set at City Winery in DC with the lead-off track of his latest LP Shooter. But Jennings has always been more than his father’s son, and anyone coming to the show expecting a full-on country throw-down might have been surprised by how much more than that they got.
While Jennings and his band brought out most of the tracks from the new LP, the highs of the evening came from his less-country affairs. “All Of This Could Have Been Yours” off of 2010’s Stephen King (yep...THAT Stephen King) collaboration Black Ribbons was a shot of pure theatrical doom-rock more suited for a Nine Inch Nails show than a set that included twangers like “Living In A Minor Key”, “Denim and Diamonds” - both off of Shooter - and his biggest hit “4th Of July.” That contrast though, is what makes Jennings’s music so damn compelling. More L.A. than Nashville, he still has the blueprints for “hit-making” hard-coded into his DNA, and he knows it.
Late in the set on “The Gunslinger” (from 2013’s The Other Life), Jennings, telecaster gripped in hand, yelped “But don't call an outlaw no / I'm a motherfucking gunslinger / You wanna run your mouth all day long / You'd better keep your eye / On my motherfucking trigger finger / Do you feel me punk?” That’s a sharp commentary of not only the current Nashville scene but the punkier, more spastic L.A. scene where he cut his teeth and drawn from a well that he has returned to consistently over the course of his career. On wax, you can pick and choose which version of Shooter strikes your fancy. But on stage, you get the totality of the man and his art, which in 2018 has become less about rebellion against the type of music his father made and more an exploration of how much that music can evolve and ultimately soar.